The Premier League’s top two sides meet in the FA Cup on Friday when Manchester City host Arsenal in the fourth round at the Etihad Stadium. Here, the PA news agency looks at how the meeting could play out.
Who are the favourites?
Form points to Arsenal, who are five points clear at the top of the Premier League, but experience favors City. The Gunners have been superb this season, racing to 50 points in the opening half of their campaign and making an unexpected title charge which they look more likely to sustain. Yet City, who have been outstanding and highly successful in recent years, are unlikely to relinquish their crown without a fight. They are yet to meet this season, which makes this clash particularly intriguing.
Will both teams be at full tilt?
This is unclear. While this tie has all the makings of a classic, it remains to be seen how strongly managers Pep Guardiola and Mikel Arteta want to play it. Both have other priorities, with Guardiola eyeing the elusive Champions League and Arteta bidding to end the Gunners’ 19-year wait for a league title. Guardiola has previously pursued domestic cups with energy, regardless of goals in other competitions, but City’s recent form has been inconsistent and it is uncertain which version of them will emerge. Arsenal’s intensity may depend on how many changes Arteta makes.
What could the result mean for the title race?
With the sides yet to face each other this season, and with their first Premier League meeting just a few weeks away, it will be exciting to see how they measure up. Neither would want to overplay their hand, but would no doubt relish the chance to land a psychological blow. Some of the individual battles – on the field and the sidelines – could be fascinating, not least for how they could affect the plot of future games.
How well do the leaders know each other’s thinking?
After three years working together at City, old master Guardiola and his former assistant Arteta seem unlikely to surprise each other if they stick to their usual game plans. It will be interesting to see the lineups and which players are deployed for certain roles, or if there is any tactical deviation from the norm. Guardiola has won six of their seven meetings, but Arteta triumphed in the 2020 FA Cup semi-finals and has a stronger squad than before.
What’s the team news?
City have an almost fully fit squad after defenders John Stones and Ruben Dias recently returned to action following injury layoffs. The only question mark is over England international Phil Foden, who was not involved at all against Wolves last weekend, with Guardiola saying he had a foot problem. Foden is actually a player in need of playing time who has been quiet since returning from the World Cup. Arsenal have no new injury problems, but Gabriel Jesus, Reiss Nelson and Mohamed Elneny remain on the sidelines.